Trump administration officials broadly called for legislative legalization of foreigners illegally in the country and currently targeted by the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Chain migration would follow legislative legalization of the statuses of DACA recipients, said Michael Dougherty, Assistant Secretary for border, immigration, and trade policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DACA recipients afforded permanent residency or citizenship would be permitted to "petition on behalf of their parents" and other family members.
Dougherty described DACA recipients as, on balance, an American asset. He was joined in his assessment by DHS colleague James McCament, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Dougherty and McCament shared their assessment of the value of DACA recipients in the American national interest while being questioned by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Partial transcript below.
GRAHAM: Do you believe the DREAM Act kids, on the whole — I mean, there’s always outliers in any large group — add value to the country or are they a liability?
DOUGHERTY: They’re a benefit to the country, as are many immigrants coming in. I served as the ombudsman, I naturalized people to become U.S. citizens. It means a great deal. They are a valuable contribution to our society. We need to regularize their status through some legal means.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with that, Mr. McCament?
MCCAMENT: I do, senator.
GRAHAM: So we got the administration appearing before the Congress saying that these DREAM Act kids, these DACA kids add value to the country. The president says he wants to give them legal status, and the only thing standing between that outcome is Congress. …
DOUGHERTY: I think creating second-class citizens, or people who are never able to naturalize is not a good model.
GRAHAM: Do you think the president shares that view?
DOUGHERTY: I do. …
GRAHAM: What happens to the parents if we do the DREAM Act?
DOUGHERTY: I think that’s for Congress to decide how they wish to treat parents. … If you pass the DREAM Act and give status to young people, they eventually will be able to petition on behalf of their parents.
Watch Graham's questioning of Dougherty and McCament below.
Nearly 800,000 persons registered with the federal government after the Obama administration's executive DACA order. According to Dougherty, affording them lawful status via permanent residency or citizenship would likely yield chain migration; DACA recipients would pursue immigration opportunities for their family members with existing federal law offering preferential consideration to candidates with family in the homeland.
In September, Trump issued a series of tweets signaling support for the passage of legislation resembling DACA:
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